The Road John Hillcoat

The Road John Hillcoat
Adapting a beloved Pulitzer Prize-winning novel can be a thankless task, especially when saddled with assuaging fears brought on by tasteless studio trailers indicating a fundamental mishandling of the material. Let's get that out of the way up front: there is no explanation for the apocalypse to be found within the actual film John Hillcoat (The Proposition) has made. In fact, aside from minor concessions to the medium, The Road is a reverent and faithful version of Cormac McCarthy's haunting tale of a man and his son trying to survive, and keep the goodness of the human spirit alive, at the end of the world. Granted, you can't cover the actors' faces with cloth and read the internal emotion through voice-over, and the tension of certain scenes plays differently when made physical and given a run-time to complete the key movements of the story. There's also an important difference in the amount of horrific detail necessary to absorb visually in order to feel the utterly depraved nature of cannibalism in this dying world. Hence, the living meat locker sequence rendered the infamous baby scene of the book overkill. It was shot, according to Hillcoat's feature commentary, but he personally decided to pull it, not even including it amongst the deleted scenes. A wise choice ― the gut wrenching horror of the situations our protagonists are forced to live through is hard enough not to get torn up over, even for seasoned cinemaniacs. Viggo Mortensen and relative newcomer Kodi Smit-McPhee are a tremendous acting team as the father and son, the former predictably so, but the latter shocks with a remarkably mature and naturally emotive performance of some of the heaviest material committed to page or screen. The rest of the sparse cast more than pull their weight, often nearly unrecognizable, battered souls matching the caked-on grime of their skin and clothes. As the "Making Of" depicts, Hillcoat has made location the other primary star of the film, mostly eschewing CGI environments in favour of real natural disaster sites. Many of the forest scenes were shot on the dead landscape of Mount St. Helens and the majority of the city scenes are places ravaged by Hurricane Katrina. Hillcoat even borrowed his thickest smoke plumes from footage of 9/11. The beautifully poetic text of McCarthy's novel isn't perfectly translated to screen, but it's hard to conceive how a better job could be done. For those willing to undertake such a harrowing emotional journey, The Road is a uniquely moving and uncomfortable experience. Unnecessary deleted scenes and two theatrical trailers, including the offensive one that unjustly kept fans of the book away from theatres, round out the features. (Alliance)